A-Rod may play a part in pursuit of Machado

Manny Machado has been one of the game’s best players since debuting in 2012, and he is set to cash in as a first-time free agent this offseason.

Below, you will find a list of the latest news and rumors surrounding the infielder.

Belle weighs in on Harper and Machado
Nov. 15: The White Sox signed Albert Belle to what was, at the time, the largest contract in baseball history, at five years and $55 million in 1996. Belle joined NBC Sports Chicago’s White Sox Talk podcast on Thursday to talk about the club, and one of the topics of discussion was whether Chicago would try to sign Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, given they are expected to land contracts in the range of $300 million-$400 million.

“I guess [fans] should be skeptical until it actually happens,” said the five-time All-Star. “If they’re willing to spend the big money on Harper or Machado … that means they’re willing to go for it again, and win a pennant. … If I were an owner, I wouldn’t give anyone more than a five-year deal. I’m just trying to figure out all the guys who signed big deals that are hurt now. Look at Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols … Robinson Cano isn’t gonna pan out on his [deal].”

Are Yankees gearing up for serious pursuit of Machado? Will A-Rod play a part?
Nov. 15: Count MLB Network insider Jon Heyman among those who expect the Yankees to make a serious run at free-agent infielder Manny Machado, despite team owner Hal Steinbrenner saying that he found Machado’s comments on his lack of hustle “troubling.”

“I think [ownership loves] the guys that want to play for the Yankees,” Heyman said Thursday on WFAN. “And Machado, they know that he wants to be a Yankee, or have heard that.”

Heyman pointed to Alex Rodriguez’s relationship with Machado as a potential factor that could sway the Yankees toward the 26-year-old. Rodriguez, who maintains an advisor role in the organization, has known Machado since the latter was a teenager, with both players having a connection through the Miami baseball scene.

Steinbrenner expressed some reservations about Machado on Wednesday, stemming from the shortstop’s controversial interview with Ken Rosenthal during the postseason about not being a “Johnny Hustle” type of player.

“If it’s a $300 million guy or a $10 million guy, clearly those comments are troubling,” Steinbrenner said. “That’s really [general manager Brian Cashman’s] job, if we’re interested in any player, to sit down with them face-to-face and ask them, ‘Where did this come from? What was the context around the entire interview? Was there a point? How do you justify it?’

“Because that ain’t going to sell where we play baseball.”

But Heyman thinks Steinbrenner’s comments were merely a case of the owner “saying the right thing.”

“If you say that you don’t mind that he didn’t hustle, then you’re not really doing the right thing,” Heyman said. “Publicly, you’ve gotta take a big stand on pro hustling, it’s not a difficult concept. So I think [Steinbrenner] just said the right thing.”

Yankees broadcaster Michael Kay shared similar thoughts on his radio show Wednesday about the club’s interest in Machado.

“The feeling I get, is that the Yankees are in, in a serious way, on Manny Machado,” Kay said. “Now, Brian Cashman has said … ‘he’s on the radar.’ I think he’s more than on the radar.”

Tweet from @YESNetwork: .@RealMichaelKay: “The Yankees are IN, in a serious way, on Manny Machado.” pic.twitter.com/yn5J9bYDx6

Why Braves should consider signing Machado
Nov. 15: Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos is on record saying he doesn’t foresee the club handing out any 10-year deals this offseason, but The Athletic’s Jim Bowden thinks he should reconsider for Manny Machado.

In his story (subscription required) looking at one move each 2018 postseason team needs to make to get back to October, Bowden points out that Machado will likely want opt-out clauses in his contract, so a 10-year deal might end up being a short-term commitment that considerably increases the Braves’ chances of winning a World Series in the next three years.

And even if Machado did stay with the Braves for a decade, he would be 36 by the end of the contract and may still be contributing at a high level.

Adding Machado to Freddie Freeman, Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies would give Atlanta an outstanding nucleus, with more talent on the way via the farm system.

Betances wants Yankees to sign Machado
Nov. 14: As the Yankees consider whether to make a run at free-agent infielder Manny Machado, one New York player gave the potential move his full endorsement Tuesday.

“I think he’ll put us over the top,” Yankees reliever Dellin Betances said. “We were short last year. Things could have gone our way, but they didn’t. Adding a guy like that would help any team. Our lineup is already impactful, so adding a guy like that would be pretty crazy.”

Betances and Machado were teammates for the Dominican Republic in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, and they have plenty of experience as opponents from Machado’s years with the Orioles.

“I played with him in the Classic and got a chance to develop a good relationship with him over the years, playing against him,” Betances said. “I’m hoping that we get him. I’m keeping close tabs on it. It’s not my decision, but that would be a big piece for the team. We have a good team, but adding a guy like that, that can play at a high level and has played at a high level for quite some time, we would be great.”

What would a Yankees spending spree look like?
Nov. 13: Picture Manny MachadoPatrick Corbin and Corey Kluber in pinstripes. MLB Network insider Joel Sherman does just that in a column for the New York Post.

To be clear, Sherman is doing little more than speculating on such a scenario by harkening back to the days when the mercurial George Steinbrenner was the owner of the Yankees, not his more patient son, Hal. Still, it’s fun at least to wonder whether there’s any way this could play out, especially after New York just watched its bitter rival, the Red Sox, win their fourth title since 2000 — compared to two for the Yankees.

“The Yankees are, at minimum, intrigued by Machado,” Sherman writes, “and his signing would give them latitude to use Miguel Andujar as the central trade piece to obtain Kluber – taking a logical leap that the Indians like the AL Rookie of the Year runner-up enough to deal their ace. Imagine 10 years at $330 million for Machado, six years at $126 million for Corbin (the Yu Darvish pact from last offseason) and the assumption of Kluber’s Indians contract, which, if his 2020-21 options are picked up, has three years at $52.5 million left, but costs just $11.3 million toward the luxury tax in 2019.”

That would, in theory, address the Yankees’ biggest need by bringing in not one, but two front-of-the-rotation arms, while also putting another foundation piece at the hot corner in Machado. It’s still a little murky how strong the Yankees’ pursuit of Machado will actually be. But they’re definitely doing their due diligence, as The Athletic’s Jayson Stark reports that the club is doing “particularly extensive” (subscription required) background work on Machado, even beyond the typical amount teams routinely seek for potential free-agent or trade targets.

Would Yanks trade Andujar to make way for Machado?
Nov. 13: While it’s unclear exactly where Manny Machado falls on the Yankees’ offseason wish list, a big splash by New York can’t be ruled out. The Yanks certainly have the money to afford the 26-year-old, and the club is doing “extensive” background work on him, according to a report from The Athletic (subscription required).

Of course, improving the starting rotation remains the Yankees’ top priority. General manager Brian Cashman has made it known he’s looking to add two starting pitchers, and signing Machado may lower New York’s chances of inking one of the top hurlers on the free-agent market, such as Patrick Corbin.

Still, there is a way for Cashman to possibly acquire Machado and multiple high-end starters, as Joe Rivera of the Sporting News points out. The Yankees could do so by dangling third baseman Miguel Andujar in a trade for an ace, and then sign a mid-market free agent such as J.A. Happ.

Andujar finished second to Shohei Ohtani in the American League Rookie of the Year Award voting after hitting .297 with 27 homers and 92 RBIs in 2018, but he struggled defensively to the point where there are questions about his long-term viability at the hot corner.

If New York trades Andujar, Machado could slot in as the club’s starting third baseman, with Gleyber Torres shifting to shortstop until Didi Gregorius is ready to return from Tommy John surgery.

Granted, the Yanks wouldn’t have to trade the 23-year-old Andujar to make room for Machado. They could play Machado at shortstop while Gregorius is out, leaving Andujar at third base and Torres at second, or move Andujar across the diamond to first. But dealing Andujar may be the best way for the Yankees to get Machado and still acquire the ace starting pitcher they covet.

A big gap between Harper and Machado?
Nov. 12: In a piece for The Athletic, Cliff Corcoran ranks the best under-28 free agents of all-time. It’s interesting to see where the top two free agents on this year’s market land. Manny Machado is ranked third, behind only Alex Rodriguez (2000) and Barry Bonds (1992). Bryce Harper is all the way down at 11th out of 13 players, ahead of Carlos Beltran (2004) and Goose Gossage (1977).

“The math projects [Machado] to be worth 5.2 bWAR in his age-26 season, but he has been a six-win player in four of the last six seasons (I’m counting his 5.7 bWAR this year given his uncharacteristic struggles in the field), so he could very well exceed that projection,” writes Corcoran.

With respect to Harper, Corcoran cites his inconsistency at the plate and injury history, pointing out his 1.5 WAR (Baseball Reference) in 2016, and 1.3 WAR last season.

“What was supposed to be the monster free agency to end all free agencies is instead a confusing mixed bag of impressive accomplishment and confounding underperformance,” Corcoran writes.

Should Cubs choose Machado over Bryant? Brisbee thinks so.
Nov. 11: SB Nation senior baseball writer Grant Brisbee decided to chime in on the Machado debate with a lengthy column in which he debates the advantages and disadvantages of several teams’ pursuits of the 26-year-old shortstop, including the Yankees, Phillies, White Sox, Dodgers, Cubs and Padres.

In his search for an ideal fit for Machado, Brisbee considers four factors: extra money to spend, a fan base that needs a jolt, a robust farm system that can allow them to subsidize a superstar for the coming years, and a young team.

“We need the Padres. Machado needs the Padres. The Padres need Machado,” Brisbee writes.

Brisbee points to the Eric Hosmer contract as an example of the Padres making an expensive, long-term investment in a player that could play a key role on a future team in contention, but concedes that Machado playing his home games in Petco Park remains a long shot. He ultimately concludes that he expects Machado to sign a 10-year, $330 million contract to play for the Cubs.

He doesn’t feel that it’s a coincidence that Kris Bryant trade rumors are gaining steam now, when Machado is also on the market. He writes that for the Cubs, it could be a matter of committing $300 million to a 29-year-old Bryant after the 2021 season versus making a similar commitment to a 26-year-old Machado right now — and also reaping the benefits of whatever top prospects they would gain in a trade involving Bryant.

Would Harper or Machado be enough for Phillies to contend?
Nov. 10: In hopes of contending next year, the Phillies are expected to make a run at big-name free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado this offseason. But Jonah Keri of CBS Sports argues that adding one of those players might not be enough to spark a postseason run in 2019.

As Keri points out, the last three World Series winners — the Cubs, the Astros and the Red Sox — all had a strong core in place before adding to it in free agency. The Phils, though, have a ton of question marks after Aaron Nola and Rhys Hoskins.

Philadelphia’s roster isn’t barren, but Odubel Herrera and Cesar Hernandez are coming off poor second halves, Nick Pivetta, Vince Velasquez and Zach Eflin haven’t proven to be consistent rotation options, and neither J.P. Crawford nor Scott Kingery have lived up to expectations as former top prospects.

Keri writes that signing Harper or Machado — potentially for $400 million — should be part of a larger free-agency plan that involves adding relief help as well as a starting pitcher. Keri names J.A. Happ and Charlie Morton, who has expressed his desire to be close to his wife’s family’s Delaware home, as potential options.

Meanwhile, Scott Lauber of the Philadelphia Inquirer notes that this offseason could get tricky for the Phillies, with the markets for Harper and Machado potentially playing out slowly as their agents — Scott Boras and Dan Lozano, respectively — try to land the longest and most lucrative deal possible. As Lauber writes, neither agent is going to want his client to be the first of the two to sign, instead preferring to let the other player set the market. Moreover, the longer each player’s free agency endures, the more likely it is that other teams will join the bidding.

Phillies general manager Matt Klentak has indicated that he won’t wait around for Harper or Machado if he has a chance to improve the team.

“We’re not going to forgo opportunities early in the offseason because we’re waiting on something else,” Klentak said this past week during the General Managers Meetings in Carlsbad, Calif. “If there are good opportunities for us to improve our club now or in the coming weeks or months that make sense for us, we will do it.”

Will Yankees make competitive bid for Machado?
Nov. 10: While the Yankees continue to be connected to both Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, Bill Madden of the New York Daily News does not think the club is a likely suitor for either player.

Madden wrote Saturday that New York “will monitor the Manny Machado sweepstakes, if only because he has previously expressed a desire to play for the Yankees and his market may be more limited than you might think.”

But teams such as the Phillies are expected to offer more than $300 million for Machado, and Maddon doesn’t expect New York will want to saddle itself with another potential albatross after being burned by the Alex Rodriguez and Jacoby Ellsbury deals.

Said one former big league executive: “All you have to know with Machado is he says he’s no ‘Charlie hustle’ or whatever before he even gets the money. What’s he going to do AFTER he gets the money, when he’s got the security and nobody can talk to him? For me, he’d be toxic. To give that guy 10 years? That’s one bad contract waiting to happen.”

Meanwhile, Madden considers the Harper-to-the-Yankees dream to be “dead,” noting that New York has no interest in spending another $250 million or more on an outfielder.

Madden writes that the Yanks’ priority instead is “to add at least two more proven quality frontline pitchers,” and he predicts that after staying under the luxury-tax threshold in 2018, New York “will not be out-bid for Patrick Corbin” or J.A. Happ, if they choose to pursue them.

Murti: No matter what Yanks say, don’t count them out on Machado or Harper
Nov. 9: The Yankees say that they’re focused on starting pitching this offseason. The Yankees say that they’re not interested in Bryce Harper. The Yankees say that Machado is a back-burner item. WFAN Yankees beat reporter Sweeny Murti says to ignore all that.

“They tell everybody right now that they have no level of interest in these guys, but that doesn’t mean anything at this point in time,” Murti said in a Friday interview on MLB Now.

Murti goes on to explain that he feels that the Yankees are distancing themselves because they’re not willing to pursue 12-year or 14-year deals with Machado or Harper, but if they remain on the market and New York feels that they can fill holes on the roster, he “guarantees” that the Yankees are still part of the equation.

“I will never believe a guy like Harper or Machado is not a Yankee until I see him holding up another jersey and wearing another cap at the podium,” Murti said.

Murti pointed to the Yankees’ past signings of Johnny Damon and Mark Teixeira as examples of pursuits in which New York distanced itself at the start before ultimately choosing to pull the trigger on both. And Murti also feels the Yankees have more of a need than they would indicate at shortstop with the uncertainty around Didi Gregorius, pointing to the time in 2013 when Derek Jeter’s injury necessitated them scrambling to find Luis Cruz to fill the gap.

With that said, this time could be different, with the Yankees finally having dropped below the luxury tax threshold after 15 straight years of being penalized, and owner Hal Steinbrenner reportedly reluctant to make another significant commitment.

Will last year’s acquisition of Stanton cost Yankees Harper or Machado?
Nov. 9: The Yankees made a blockbuster move to acquire slugger Giancarlo Stanton from the Marlins last offseason, also taking on $265 million remaining on his contract after Miami agreed to pick up $30 million in the trade. Did that acquisition make it unlikely New York could land one of this year’s prized superstars, Bryce Harper or Manny Machado?

It did, according to SNY’s John Harper (no relation), who argues that Stanton’s no-trade clause, coupled with Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner’s aversion to putting another giant contract on the franchise’s payroll, makes the chances of Harper or Machado landing in the Bronx slim to none. The Yankees have also made it very apparent their first priority this offseason is starting pitching.

Who is the better investment: Harper or Machado?
Nov. 9: With both Bryce Harper and Manny Machado expected to command a long-term contract valued at more than $300 million this offseason, the question arises: which young superstar is the better investment?

ESPN’s Bradford Doolittle takes a shot at answering that question, and he comes to the conclusion that Harper is the better bet. In a nutshell, Harper has more value offensively, and Machado has more value defensively, but Doolittle sees the offensive advantage Harper brings to the table outweighing Machado’s superior defensive ability.

Obviously, these types of decisions are subject to many other factors, including positional need, for the different clubs that may pursue the two sluggers. But in a vacuum, Doolittle sees a Harper mega-deal paying off more than one for Machado.

What does the future hold for Harper and Machado?
Nov. 9: Since being drafted first and third overall, respectively, in the 2010 MLB Draft, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado have become two of the biggest stars in baseball. And regardless of where the two players land in free agency this offseason, the signing clubs will surely be hoping they’ll be as good or better over the next decade.

History paints a positive picture about what teams might be able to expect, with some exceptions.

According to FanGraphs, Harper and Machado have each generated roughly 30 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) in their careers. To determine potential future outcomes for the duo, MLB.com’s Andrew Simon took a look at 43 players who each also recorded between 20-40 WAR through their age-25 seasons and have seen at least 10 years pass since then.

Breaking down WAR totals from their age 26-35 seasons, Simon found Willie Mays (92.2 WAR), Barry Bonds (79.1) and Hank Aaron (75.7) to be the cream of the crop, and seven players — Rickey Henderson (62.1 WAR), Carl Yastrzemski (58.2), Frank Robinson (57.9), Eddie Mathews (56.7), George Brett (53.7), Albert Pujols (51.8) and Cal Ripken Jr. (50.9) — qualified as all-time greats. Simon put an additional 16 players in the superstars group.

Fifteen players were productive for a while, but injuries and/or age typically caught up to them, with David Wright serving as a representative example. On the lower end of the spectrum, Simon lists Jim Ray Hart (4.0 WAR) and Grady Sizemore (1.4) as the worst-case scenarios. Sizemore posted 27.2 WAR over his first four full seasons, ranking fourth in the Majors, behind only Pujols, Chase Utley and Alex Rodriguez. But due to injuries, the outfielder barely collected 1,000 at-bats between 2010-15, and he played his final season in ’15 at age 32.

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